Last week’s poll numbers seemingly confirmed the doubts about democracy’s viability expressed in last week’s column. After a barrage of outrageous smears fired off by the Obama campaign, which accused Romney of killing a woman with cancer and failing to pay any income tax, Obama is leading Romney by 7-9 points. Coming on top of the continuing approval of Obama’s economically disastrous, class-envious assault on the “rich,” the success of patent lies in improving Obama’s numbers makes one think that democracy’s critics may be right: most people lack the ability to see past their selfish, short-term interests and make electoral decisions that benefit the state as a whole.
But let’s not give up on democracy yet. Mitt Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential candidate should give us hope that maybe a critical mass of Americans will rise above petty self-interest and do what must be done to keep the United States from morphing into California on its way to becoming Greece on steroids.
Judged solely on political expediency, Romney’s choice seems a disaster. According to “one of the country’s most prominent and influential conservatives,” as the Huffington Post claims of its anonymous commentator, Ryan is too much like Romney, a wonky white guy too polished and detached from the average American. Ryan, this unknown Solon continues, can’t deliver any electoral votes, is too obsessive about the deficit, has been tarred by his zeal to reform Medicare, and fails the “3 A.M. crisis call” test. No wonder some Democrats are happy about the choice. “Democrats are gleefully united in bashing Rep. Paul Ryan,” Politico’s John Bresnahan writes, “blasting him as the author of the controversial ‘Ryan budget,’ claiming his proposals ‘end Medicare,’ and warning that his policies will return the country to the ‘trickle-down economics’ of the 1980s and the presidency of George W. Bush.”
We’ll soon know if the Dems are whistling past the graveyard. But if we forget political expediency and think about principle, the choice of Paul Ryan should give us hope that the defining crisis of our times––the fiscal apocalypse fast approaching if we don’t cut back on spending, debt, and deficits––will be confronted, and the tough policies needed to mitigate it be frankly acknowledged.
Paul Ryan has been the only politician to do just that. His budget plan cuts spending to 20% of GDP by 2022, cuts the deficit to 2% of GDP by 2050, and reforms the tax code so that revenues stay near the historical 20% level by 2015, saving $5 trillion. In contrast, under Obama’s budget, spending rises to 24%. If nothing is done to rein in spending, debt will rise to 800% of GDP. And if history is any guide––tax revenues average around 20% no matter how high the rates–– Obama’s plan to raise tax rates will not generate enough money to pay the government’s bills. That’s why the Ryan plan reforms the tax code to make it more efficient and more pro-growth while maintaining revenues. Finally, given that entitlement spending will devour all tax revenues by 2050, the Ryan plan reforms Medicaid and Medicare, controlling cost by adding choice and market competition to both programs.
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